ANTONI PUIGVERD 10/28/2020 06:00
A paramedic wearing a mask comes out of a tent set up by the Italian Civil Protection outside the emergency room of the Piacenza hospital, in northern Italy (Claudio Furlan / AP)
The spread of the virus is so frightening that the autonomous and central governments, with difficulties, doubts and not a few disputes, are agreeing to severe restrictions on economic and social life. The owners and workers of restaurants and cafes have already got unfortunate news about them. It is taken for granted that much more drastic measures than a curfew will be necessary. A new confinement is not ruled out. President Sánchez’s proposal to extend the state of alarm until spring does not find support, but indicates that the forecasts are very pessimistic. The virus, we knew, is very contagious; but we do not know the degree of virulence that it will manifest with the arrival of the cold.
The current restrictions are due to the unconsciousness of a part of the citizenry during leisure time. But, given that closed places and public transport are great sources of contagion, experts recommend curbing labor relations as much as possible. Hence the insistence on teleworking; And since teleworking is only possible in certain sectors, the great victim of Covid-19 is and will be employment. The unemployment rate has risen to 16.3%. We are approaching 20% unemployed. A catastrophic figure to which must be added the ERTE, officially employed, but disengaged from their work for months. Half of the lost jobs have been recovered. Will they resist the onslaught of a second wave?
Like health and the economy, democracy is in danger; Europe’s umbrella covers, but it’s not miraculous
Another terrifying fact: youth unemployment already exceeds 40%. The figure is so dramatic that it speaks for itself. The social tragedy is sensed. For this reason, several analysts have highlighted the following paradox: at the moment when – apparently – political polarization is modulated, social unrest appears as the great challenge of the country. In Italy it is already on the street. Here it can explode any day. Antagonistic ideological currents will play to ignite the malaise. The extreme right and left are already preparing the lighter. It is clear that, apart from the seriously ill and deaths, the great victim of the coronavirus is the economy, in the abstract, and, in particular, employment. The middle and popular classes, in decline for more than a decade, are about to hit rock bottom.
Despite the social budgets that are being prepared, very soon the dilemma will be posed in a very crude way. On the one hand, disorder, revolt, perhaps violence on the part of the losers, who will be many. On the other, panic, a demand for order and a strong hand on the part of those who are saved from the catastrophe. The authoritarian solution, which was already very well positioned on the world stage, will win many points. Like health and like the economy, democracy is in danger. The umbrella of Europe covers, but it is not miraculous. Our democracy will only be saved if, in addition to promoting agreement to confront the virus, the parties agree on a great social pact, connect with civil society and promote a great current of fraternity.